Social media and anti-corruption efforts may sound like strange bedfellows, but as communication technology continues to evolve and as mobile devices are increasingly dominant platforms for accessing information, social media is ever more connected to attempts to thwart corruption.

“Voice of Corruption Hunters in Social Media”, a panel discussion at theInternational Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA) Conference hosted by The World Bank Group, provided a nice summary of the importance of social media for communicating on anti-corruption. Jeremy Hillman, Christine Montgomery, Jessica Tillipman, Matthew Stephenson, and Julie Dimauro filled out the panel and provided an interesting break-down of the role of social media and some stories to back up their claims.

Social media, in field of the anti-corruption, serves two distinct purposes according to the panel:

  1. Analysis, commentary and advocacy
  2. Investigation and crowd-sourcing

The first variety takes the form of blog posts, legal reviews and presentations that impart knowledge or seek to spread the word on a particular topic. The Global Anticorruption Blog, to which Stephenson contributes, and The FCPA Blog, of which Tillipman is a Senior Editor and Dimauro is a Contributing Editor, both fit into this vein of social media and are influential in anti-corruption circles.

Stephenson says he was able to challenge the methodology of the Corruption Perceptions Index that Transparency International compiles and as well as the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) report that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) published. His and others’ criticism on the ICAI led the UK House of Commons to schedule a hearing to look into the matter.  Such exchanges work to improve analysis and make reporting on anti-corruption efforts more vigorous.  Tillipman and Dimauro also noted that law enforcement agencies and governments frequently read The FCPA Blog to keep abreast of updates within the anti-corruption community.

The second variety of social media- investigation and crowd-sourcing- is represented by websites that allow volunteers or end users to provide information and feedback.  I Paid a Bribe, an Indian website that collects anonymous reports of bribes paid, bribes requested but not paid, and bribes that were expected but not forthcoming, and RosPil, a Russian website that provides volunteers with a platform to dissect Russian government contracts and tenders for signs of corruption, are two examples.

Nevertheless, while social media is helpful, it is should be viewed as just one ingredient in an anti-corruption effort.  Communication via social media is most effective when it is integrated within a broader strategy of reporting and reform. This requires coalition building and wider support from those in government and the private sector.  Social media can support how these actors coalesce around an issue but cannot single-handedly champion anti-corruption legislation or compliance procedures.

As Montgomery asserted, there are now more than 2 billion people on the internet and any effort to combat corruption must communicate on multiple channels, including social media.

This post first appeared on The World Bank People, Spaces, Deliberation Blog.

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Author: Roxanne Bauer is a consultant to the World Bank’s External and Corporate Relations, Operational Communications department

Image: Generic picture of apps on smartphones REUTERS